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Tears For His Island: Dominica's Prime Minister speaks of Devastation

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In an interview carried live by ABS television/radio in Antigua, at 12;30pm on Thursday, September 21st, 2017, a visibly emotional Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, described utter devastation in his country, with isolated communities, and an official death toll that is expected to rise, as officials are yet to get to some hard-hit areas. Helicopter services are needed said the Prime Minister, to airlift supplies, critical patients and because villages at this time are only accessible via sea or by air. The island's hospital is without electricity and because of flooding the use of a generator has not been possible to-date. 

"Everyone has been impacted," said the Prime Minister describing it as, "almost complete devastation."

There is no electricity, telecommunications are limited, many homes are damaged, including that of the Prime Minister who lost his roof during the storm. Reliving that moment briefly during the interview, the Prime Minister, described the sounds of the wind and the noises of the storm all in complete darkness. His preoccupation at that time, he said, was with people in more vulnerable communities, because he knew if his roof was gone, it would be worse elsewhere. He described the winds as "merciless" and like others, the basement was the place of immediate refuge, although at that level flooding became an issue to contend with. 

He said, so far about 15 people have been buried, and a larger number are reported missing, with a likelihood of many deaths being recorded when the assessment is complete. People in the communities he said are burying the dead because of health concerns. "It’s a miracle there was not hundreds of deaths," he said, based on the magnitude of the devastation in the country. 

In his battered home, during the storm, a mattress was used to protect lives against projectiles and falling debris. "Everywhere in Dominica received a serious beating," he said, adding that fury was delivered by wind and the water of rivers. According to him, the majority of the vulnerable population went into shelters and many of the shelters with concrete roofs survived intact, even if water ingress was an issue. In his words, there were "No Classes" as far as the hurricane was concerned, as the impact was felt by upper, middle and working-class people. 

"We are resilient people," he said, as he outlined that currently people were in shelters, some by neighbours, but was forced to wipe tears from his eyes as he added, "many who do not know where to sleep at night."

He listed off immediate needs which in addition to helicopter services, reflected much of the following list circulated by Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA): 

14,000 Tarpaulins
Water 4,813 cases per day (24 (0.5l) bottles
Clearing of roadways
Reconstruction of bridges
Reestablishment of communication networks

To minimise suffering, he said, “We need Water, baby supplies, and tarpaulins. Seas were rough on Thursday, impacting the ability of boats to get to some villages and it is in this light that air services could be of tremendous assistance immediately.” 

Dominica is going to need all the help the world can offer - as small or big as it is, was a sentiment shared by the leader. 

He described the recovery as, "A very long and difficult journey," but said that he was confident that if the island or people remain united it will bounce back - but it will take some time. 
"I remain committed to the country," he said, as he outlined his plans to travel to the United Nations (UN) to address the UN and to outline the situation. He said he will not leave any stone unturned. To the Dominican diaspora he said, "If there has ever been a time that Dominica needs its people it is now."

Several countries have reached out at this point, including, members of CARICOM, OECS, OAS, France, United Kingdom, and he was expected to speak to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau on Thursday afternoon. 

For people overseas hoping to find information on the island, the Prime Minister said the Missions in London and Washington would be setup to provide assistance. Additionally, he said, Digicel and Flow were working to restore some level of communication on the island. 

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